Bone Marrow Function: What is It and What Does It Do?

Written by Hexahealth Care Team, last updated on 15 June 2023
Bone Marrow Function: What is It and What Does It Do?

In the vast landscape of our bodies, hidden beneath the protective layers of our bones, lies a fascinating and vital component known as the bone marrow. But how many of us know what bone marrow is and what are the bone marrow functions?

In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of bone marrow and delve into its incredible functions. We will also talk about how one can ensure the proper functioning of bone marrow.

What is Bone Marrow?

Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found in the center of our bones. The bone marrow, often referred to as the powerhouse of the blood, plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being.

It serves as a dynamic factory responsible for the production and development of various components of our blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. 

Red blood cells transport oxygen to every part of your body, white blood cells defend against harmful invaders, and platelets help with blood clotting. Without a properly functioning bone marrow, these vital components of your blood would be compromised, leading to a range of health issues.

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Structure and Composition of Bone Marrow

Bone marrow is considered to be the largest hematopoietic (blood cell production) organ in mammals. It comprises 3 to 5 % of the total body weight. 

There are two main types of bone marrow: red bone marrow (also known as myeloid tissue) and yellow bone marrow. 

  1. Red Bone Marrow: Red bone marrow is found primarily in the flat bones, such as the hip bones, breastbone, and skull, as well as the ends of long bones, like the femur and humerus. 

    1. It produces blood cells and is abundant in hematopoietic stem cells, which are renowned for their capacity to develop into diverse types of blood cells. 

    2. It also has a high degree of vascularization, which means that it has an abundance of blood vessels
      to sustain the ongoing creation of blood cells.
  2. Yellow Bone Marrow: Yellow bone marrow, on the other hand, is found in the central cavities of long bones, such as the shafts of the femur and humerus.
    It consists mainly of fat cells (adipocytes) and has a yellowish appearance. 

    1. Despite not actively contributing to the creation of blood cells, yellow marrow functions as a reserve for energy storage and can be transformed into red marrow if the body's need for blood cells rises.

The cellular composition of bone marrow is diverse and includes various types of cells that contribute to its structure and function. These cells can be broadly categorized into two main groups: hematopoietic cells and stromal cells.

  1. Hematopoietic Cells: Hematopoietic stem cells, progenitor cells, and mature blood cells such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are all included in the category of blood-forming cells known as hematopoietic cells. 

    1. These cells are in charge of creating several blood cell types that are necessary for blood clotting, immunological responses, and the transfer of oxygen.

  2. Stromal Cells: The structural component of the bone marrow is made up of stromal cells, also referred to as mesenchymal cells. 

    1. Numerous cell types, including fibroblasts, adipocytes, endothelial cells, and osteoblasts, are included in them. 

      The structural support, production of growth factors and cytokines, control of the bone marrow's microenvironment, and support of the proliferation and differentiation of hematopoietic cells are all important functions of these stromal cells

Functions of Bone Marrow

The bone marrow is responsible for performing diverse functions in the human body. The proper bone marrow functions are essential to ensure the complete well-being and good health of a person.
Some of the key functions of bone marrow include: 

  1. Blood Cell Production: One of the primary functions of bone marrow is the production of white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells. 

    1. These diverse blood cells are essential for multiple body functions such as the transport of oxygen, immunity response, blood clotting, etc. 

    2. In cases where the bone marrow fails to function properly, there is a cutout on the required supply of healthy blood cells, which can cause many complications in the body.

  2. Immune System Function: Another essential function of the bone marrow is the development and maturation of immune cells. For example, lymphocytes. 

    1. The immune system is responsible for defending the body against diseases, infections, and the interference of foreign objects in the body. 

    2. Without the presence of functional bone marrow, there are high risks of the immune system being compromised.
      This, in turn, will surely result in the body becoming prone to infections and complications quickly.

  3. Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC): The HSCs have a unique capability of differentiating between the diverse types of blood cells. 

    1. The stem cells make sure that there is a continuous supply of new blood cells throughout the life of a person.
      This leads to the replacement of dead and damaged cells. 

    2. Bone marrow makes place for hematopoietic stem cells. These stem cells aid in multiple medical treatments, such as restoring blood cells in individuals suffering from blood-related problems and bone marrow transplants. 

  4. Nutrient Storage: Another primary function of bone marrow is the storage of essential nutrients like calcium, iron, and phosphorus. 

    1. These nutrients play a vital role in taking care of many physiological processes, such as energy metabolism, nerve signaling, bone health, muscle function, etc. 

    2. Bone marrow is responsible for the storage and release of these nutrients that support the overall well-being of the body and the proper mineral balance.

  5. Diagnostic Tool: Bone marrow is used as an essential diagnostic tool. 

    1. With the help of medical procedures such as bone marrow biopsy and aspiration, one can accurately diagnose multiple blood-related disorders such as certain infections, lymphoma, leukemia, etc. 

    2. With the help of these examinations, healthcare providers can obtain a better and clear understanding of the health and condition of the bone marrow and also accordingly plan and diagnose the treatments that are required.

Factors Affecting Bone Marrow Function

It is essential for one to know that disturbances in the regular functioning of the bone marrow can lead to a number of health-related problems and complications in the body. 

For those who suspect the presence of this condition, it is essential that they consult their healthcare providers at the earliest. Several factors can affect bone marrow function are:

  1. Age: The bone marrow's capacity to generate blood cells may gradually deteriorate with age. Anaemia, infections, and bleeding disorders may become more common as a result of a decline in the quantity and quality of blood cells produced.

  2. Genetics: Bone marrow function may be affected by genetic variables. Fanconi anaemia, Diamond-Blackfan anaemia, and myelodysplastic syndrome are a few genetic diseases that can interfere with the development and maturation of blood cells in the bone marrow.

  3. Environmental Factors: The bone marrow can be harmed and its normal function can be interfered with by exposure to several environmental factors, including radiation, specific chemicals, and poisons. This may lead to a reduction in the synthesis of blood cells or the emergence of bone marrow conditions.

  4. Medical Treatments: High doses of radiation therapy and chemotherapy can damage bone marrow and affect its ability to produce blood cells.

  5. Infections and Diseases: A number of illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, can affect bone marrow health and impair blood cell formation. 

    1. In addition, the bone marrow can be directly impacted by autoimmune disorders and several cancers, including leukaemia and lymphoma, which can result in irregularities in the formation of blood cells.

  6. Nutritional Deficiencies: For the bone marrow to function properly, adequate nutrition is necessary. Iron, vitamin B12, folate, and copper deficiencies can hinder the synthesis of red blood cells and result in anaemia. Similar to how vitamin and mineral shortages can impact one's general health, bone marrow health can also be impacted.

Testing Compromised Bone Marrow Function

Bone marrow transplants require several medical interventions for the correct prognosis and treatment. Different types of problems need diverse tests. Some of the best and most effective tests that are done to analyze and treat bone marrow functions are : 

  1. Blood Tests: Blood tests can measure the number and type of blood cells present in the body, which can provide insights into bone marrow function.

  2. Bone Marrow Biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy involves taking a small sample of bone marrow and examining it under a microscope to assess the production of blood cells.

  3. Bone Marrow Aspiration: A medical procedure for bone marrow aspiration is done to obtain a sample of bone marrow. It involves the extraction of a small amount of fluid and cells from the bone marrow cavity. 

  4. Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as CT scans, X-rays, and MRI scans can provide a visual assessment of bone marrow and identify any abnormalities.

Tip for Maintaining Good Bone Marrow Function

As we have seen, the bone marrow produces blood cells and supports the immune system, making it a critical component of overall health and well-being. There are several measures that individuals must take to maintain good bone marrow function, including:

  1. Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can help support bone marrow function and promote overall health and well-being.

  2. Adequate Rest: Getting enough rest and sleep is essential for supporting bone marrow function and ensuring the body has the energy to produce blood cells and support the immune system.

  3. Managing Stress: Stress has been known to have a negative impact on bone marrow function. Therefore, managing stress levels through techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga is crucial.

  4. Balanced Nutrition Intake: A balanced and varied diet is essential to ensure that all the vital nutrients go into the human body and help the bone marrow regulate its many functions. Following nutrients is a must to maintain healthy bone marrow functions. 

    1. Iron: Iron is essential for the profusion of haemoglobin, which is a vital protein in the blood. 

      1. Haemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen through all parts of the body. 

      2. Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia and impaired red blood cell production. Good sources of iron include fortified cereals, legumes, lean meats, green leafy vegetables, etc.

    2. Vitamin B12 and Folate: Vitamin B12 is essential for producing red blood cells and can help prevent anaemia. 

      1. Vitamin B12 and folate deficiency can again lead to abnormal red blood cell production and anaemia. 

      2. Good sources of vitamin B12 are dairy, eggs, fish, meat, etc., whereas good sources of folate include legumes, fortified grains, green leafy vegetables, etc.

    3. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is crucial for the body as it helps absorb iron from plant-based sources and the formation of collagen, a necessary component of bone marrow. 

      1. Excellent sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, etc.

    4. Copper: Copper is involved in synthesizing connective tissues and red blood cells. It is essential for proper bone marrow functioning. 

      1. Good sources of copper in the body include nuts, seeds, seafood, organ meat, and whole grain.

    5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids support optimal cell membrane functions and are rich in anti-inflammatory properties. 

      1. Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish, etc.

    6. Zinc: This is an essential nutrient and plays a vital role in the maturation and functions of white blood cells. 

      1. These collectively play a critical role in the immune system. 

      2. Foods that are rich in zinc are poultry, legumes, nuts, meat, oysters, whole grains, etc.

  5. Quitting Smoking: Smoking can have a negative impact on bone marrow function, so quitting smoking is essential for promoting overall health and well-being.

  6. Limiting Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on bone marrow function, so it's important to limit alcohol consumption to promote good health.

  7. Maintaining a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese can boost the risk of several health issues, including those that can negatively impact bone marrow function, so maintaining a healthy weight is essential.

When to Consult a Doctor?

Bone marrow plays a critical role in the production of blood cells and in maintaining the overall health of our body. Any compromise in its operation could have a big impact on our well-being. It's critical to be aware of the symptoms and signs that could point to impaired bone marrow function and to contact a doctor as soon as possible. 

Here are some circumstances where it is advised to see a doctor:

  1. Unexplained fatigue or weakness

  2. Frequent infections

  3. Easy bruising 

  4. Excessive bleeding

  5. Unexplained bone pain

  6. Weight loss

  7. Enlarged Lymph Nodes 


Understanding the structure and composition of bone marrow is essential for understanding bone marrow function and the various factors that can affect its health. Disorders of the bone marrow can have serious consequences, and bone marrow transplantation is a potential treatment option for some conditions.
Factors such as age, genetics, and lifestyle can all impact bone marrow function and lead to conditions such as anemia, leukemia, and lymphoma. However, incorporating certain steps can support bone marrow health. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the known and important bone marrow functions?

One of the primary bone marrow functions is to produce billions of new blood cells every day. The essential bone marrow functions are :

  1. Production of blood cells

  2. Regulations of the immune system

  3. Storage of stem cells

What is the function of bone marrow?

The primary purpose of the bone marrow is the generation of new blood cells. It is also responsible for stem cell production, which consists of the ability to differentiate between different types of blood cells.
It additionally plays a crucial role in the immune system, blood clotting, removal of old and damaged cells, etc.

What is bone marrow?

A spongy soft tissue found in the center of the bones can be explained as bone marrow. It is responsible for producing cells and also for the storage of fats and specific stem cells.

What are the different types of bone marrow?

There are two types of bone marrow that are essential for the specific function of the body. These are :

  1. Red bone marrow: This is found in the spongy bone tissues at the end of the long bones.

  2. Yellow bone marrow: This is found in the central cavities of long bones and is composed of fat cells

What is the yellow bone marrow function?

The yellow bone marrow functions include the storage of fats. This fat is used as a source of energy as and when required. Yellow bone marrow also consists of mesenchymal stem cells.

These cells develop into bone, fat, cartilage, or muscle cells.

What is the red bone marrow function?

The main red bone marrow function is the production of red blood cells. It also leads to the formation of platelets, which form clots and control bleeding. 

What is the bone marrow function in the immune system?

The primary function of bone marrow is the production of many essential immune system cells like granulocytes, B cells, natural killer cells, immature thymocytes, etc. It also produces red blood cells and platelets.

The formation of these cells is crucial for a person to lead a normal and happy life.

How does bone marrow produce blood cells?

Bone marrow produces blood cells through a process called hematopoiesis. The standard stem cell produces two different stem cells. These are the lymphoid stem cell and the myeloid stem cell.

The division of these stem cells gives rise to white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells.

How does bone marrow support the immune system?

Bone marrow supports the immune system by the production of white blood cells that fights infections and diseases.

Bone marrow is also responsible for producing essential immune cells that regulate diverse immune responses.

What are the factors that can affect bone marrow function?

There are many factors that can injure bone marrow functions and create havoc with the production of red blood cells. These factors include :

  1. Radiation and chemotherapy

  2. Autoimmune disorders

  3. Viral infections

  4. Consumption of certain drugs

  5. Pregnancy, etc

How is bone marrow function tested?

The primary purpose of the bone marrow test is to analyze the fluid and tissue in the marrow. These tests are conducted to diagnose the chance of cancer and other underlying health conditions and also for the effectiveness of the treatment. The bone marrow can be checked in two ways. These are :

  1. Bone marrow aspiration – This is used to remove a liquid marrow sample.

  2. Bone marrow biopsy – This test involves removing a small amount of bone from the marrow.

What happens if bone marrow function is compromised?

When the hematopoietic cells of the bone marrow have been compromised or damaged, the body fails in the production of the required red and white cells and platelets.

This, in turn, results in anemia, a high risk of infections, and bleeding problems.

What are the common conditions that affect bone marrow function?

Since the primary bone marrow function is the production of blood cells, the conditions that affect the bone marrow are mostly related to abnormalities in the blood. The common conditions are :

  1. Multiple myeloma

  2. Polycythemia Vera

  3. Aplastic anemia

  4. Myelodysplastic syndromes

How can one maintain good bone marrow function?

Survival without the production of blood cells in the body is impossible, and that is what makes taking good care of the bone marrow highly essential. Some easy ways to maintain the good health of bone marrow function are :

  1. Proper vitamin and mineral levels.

  2. Proper treatment of diseases

  3. A protein-rich diet,

  4. Avoiding causes of cancer such as smoking, etc.

How does aging affect bone marrow function?

The hematopoietic system has been known to undergo significant changes with aging. There are profound alterations in the composition of lipid, amino acid, and nucleic acid metabolites affecting bone marrow functions.

What role does nutrition play in maintaining healthy bone marrow function?

Nutrition plays an important role in managing the overall health of a person. The right nutrient has also been known to be highly beneficial for maintaining healthy bone marrow functions. The nutrients that must be consumed include :

  1. Iron

  2. Vitamin B12

  3. Folate

What lifestyle changes can one make to support bone marrow function?

Lifestyle changes are a must to ensure the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of a person. By making a certain set of habits a part of one's existence, a person is sure to find their way to a healthy and happy life.

These changes include :

  1. Quit smoking

  2. Limit alcohol consumption

  3. Maintain a healthy weight with the help of meals and exercise

How can one support a loved one with compromised bone marrow function?

Supporting a loved one with a comprised bone marrow function is essential to make their recovery journey a smooth and motivational process.

By simply helping them with their daily chores, providing emotional support, etc., wonders can be achieved. One can help the other in the following ways :

  1. Encourage healthy lifestyle choices

  2. Connect with support groups

  3. Be understanding and patient 

  4. Accompany for medical appointments

What are the current treatments for conditions that affect bone marrow function?

The treatment for bone marrow conditions depends on the severity and current condition of the diagnosis. Some of the most common treatments include :

  1. Antibiotics

  2. Blood transfusions

  3. Bone marrow transplant

  4. Chemotherapy

  5. Stem cell transplants

  6. Supportive care

Can bone marrow function be improved or restored?

Definitely, yes. With the right diagnosis, treatment, diet, and lifestyle changes, bone marrow functions can be improved and restored over a period.

How does bone marrow function relate to the development of cancer?

There are several types of cancer that can develop in the bone marrow and affect the smooth functioning of the bone marrow. They can severely impact bone marrow functions and disturb the production of blood cells.

This leads to a feeling of weakness, and fatigue increases the risks of infections, etc.

How does bone marrow function affect the body's response to infections?

Bone marrow is reasonable for the production of blood cells in the body. These blood cells further produce white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

When a person is suffering from an infection, bone marrow releases an increased number of white blood cells in the body, which helps the body to fight infections.

How does bone marrow function differ between adults and children?

Children have more red marrow in their blood which turns into stem cells and gets converted into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Adults have more yellow bone marrow that is responsible for storing fat.

Among adults, the hematopoietic of the red blood cells takes place in the bone marrow, whereas in the case of children, it can take place in other organs as well, like the spleen and the liver.

What research is being done to understand bone marrow function and related conditions better?

Effective bone marrow functions are a must to ensure the smooth functioning of all parts of the body. Experts and researchers globally are discovering ways to develop a better understanding of bone marrow and to find ways to improve its functions.

Some of the latest research includes :

  1. Understanding how bone marrow stem cells work and how they can be put to best use for treating other problems

  2. Developing advanced treatments for blood cancer

  3. Analyzing how bone marrow transplants can be used for curing other health conditions. 


All the articles on HexaHealth are supported by verified medically-recognized sources such as; peer-reviewed academic research papers, research institutions, and medical journals. Our medical reviewers also check references of the articles to prioritize accuracy and relevance. Refer to our detailed editorial policy for more information.

  1. Seladi-Schulman J. What Is Bone Marrow, and What Does It Do? [Internet]. Healthline. Healthline Media;
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Bone Marrow: What it is & Why it is Important [Internet]. Cleveland Clinic.
  3. Nichols H. Bone marrow: Function, diseases, transplants, and donation [Internet].
  4. Bone marrow: Its Functions And Importance [Internet]. Sparsh Hospitals.

Updated on : 15 June 2023


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HexaHealth Care Team

HexaHealth Care Team brings you medical content covering many important conditions, procedures falling under different medical specialities. The content published is thoroughly reviewed by our panel of qualified doctors for its accuracy and relevance.

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